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When should I involve Occupational Health?

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Occupational Health reports can be used in a number of cases, for example, if an employee is off sick, has taken frequent short term absences, or in the recruitment process if necessary. Absences can be disruptive to your business and Occupational Health can assist by providing information about when an employee is likely returns to work. Our Employment Team here reviews the reasons that you may choose to refer an employee to Occupational Health, and the benefits of involving Occupational Health.

You may want to consider involving Occupational Health for the following reasons:

  • By way of a pre-employment check where health is a relevant factor for the job role;
  • To consider whether an employee who has taken a substantial number of short-term intermittent absences is suffering from any underlying medical condition.
  • To obtain a likely timescale to see when an employee who is on long-term sickness absence is likely to return to work.
  • To help determine whether an employee is suffering from a physical or mental impairment which might constitute a disability under the Equality Act 2010.
  • To determine whether there are any reasonable adjustments that might help a disabled employee do their job or avoid workplace disadvantages.

There is no set answer for determining when to involve an Occupational Health specialist. ACAS advice suggests that use of health services to tackle absence can help people to get back to work but understand that not all businesses will be able to afford Occupational Health services. The use of schemes such as Employee Assistance Programmes can provide your staff with support at a cost effective rate and may achieve a similar outcome.

If you’re making a request to Occupational Health you should focus on why it is relevant; you should also be aware that any referral to Occupational Health will first need the employee’s consent and co-operation. You should bear in mind that employees are entitled to review any Occupational Health reports under Data Protection legislation.

For short term absences, it is worth getting an Occupational Health report as soon as the employee’s absence gives you a cause for concern, especially if the absences are linked to one reason e.g. headaches as there may be an underlying cause which has not yet been identified. The earlier an Occupational Health expert is involved, the better it is for both the employee’s wellbeing, and the running of your business. The report will also reveal if the employee is likely to be classed as disabled under the Equality Act 2010. If the employee is disabled, the report may also suggest reasonable adjustments which can be made to assist the employee in returning to the workplace.

For longer term absences where you’re uncertain as to how long the employee will be required to remain on leave for, an Occupational Health report will help establish the likely length of absence. The report will also indicate whether an alternative working arrangement could be appropriate such as reduced hours or a phased return, and will also indicate if there are any duties the employee will not be able to take part in.

The relationship between Occupational Health, employers and employees assists to rehabilitate employees following periods of absences, helping them to ease back into their roles as swiftly, effectively, and as safely as possible; whilst reducing the risk of further disruption to the business.

Whilst there is no legal requirement for when Occupational Health need to get involved, it is important to involve Occupational Health as soon as you feel it is necessary. This will ensure that both you and your employees receive the maximum benefit of Occupational Health providers.

If you have any concerns about whether you should obtain an Occupation Health report, you can contact the employment team on 023 8071 7717 or email


This is for information purposes only and is no substitute for, and should not be interpreted as, legal advice.  All content was correct at the time of publishing and we cannot be held responsible for any changes that may invalidate this article.